A Minority of One – Words from Magda Szubanski


“The crucial difference between Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bi-Sexual, Intersex and Questioning people and other minorities is this:

In every other minority group the family shares the minority status.

In fact it is often something that unites them.

But gay people are a minority group within the family.

A minority of one.

It means, among many things, that gay children cannot draw on the collective family wisdom about how to deal with their minority status.

No one else in the family has experienced what the gay child is going through.

Worse still: all through our growing up, from the instant we realize we are gay, we live with the gnawing fear that our parents’ love could turn to hatred in an instant.

Intangible prejudice pervaded everything.

Lesbian characters in films or books were creepy, psychotic, jealous, scheming, neurotic, humorless, bitter, barren and died horribly.

In The Children’s Hour Shirley MacLaine hangs herself in shame; June Buckridge gets her ‘just deserts’ in The Killing of Sister George.

The dream of a long gay life filled with love was entirely absent from the culture we consumed.

And worst of all, many of us internalized the bullshit.

We took the loathing into ourselves.

Some of us, God help us, believed it to be true.

Like a greedy parasite this self-hatred attached itself to every other doubt and fear we had about ourselves, amplifying it, extending it, giving it power.

Until we were colonized by our own contempt for ourselves.

A lucky few escaped this scourge.

Some, for whatever reason, never succumbed: for them being gay was not an issue.

I wasn’t one of the lucky few”

Coming out.

It sounds like making your debut.

But for gay people there was no party, no celebration, no welcoming into the bosom of our family and our community.

We came out and waited for the brickbats.

We came out not knowing if, at the end of it, we would still have a family, a community.

Some people were convinced that it would kill their parents.

Some of my friends have been with their partners for twenty years and more, and their parents still don’t know they are lovers.

That constriction, that inability to be open with the people we love more than anything in the world, corrodes the soul.

My generation of gay people are sometimes like the walking wounded.

As teenagers, closeted and terrified, most of us never learned to weather the ups and downs of dating.

Mine was probably the last generation in Australia for whom the idea of widespread public support for homosexuals was unimaginable. It is not so long ago that gays were subjected to aversion therapy – which is to say electric shocks to the genitals.

This is to say: torture.

The best we could hope for was not getting beaten up, being grudgingly tolerated and allowed to form gay ghettos in neighborhoods where the rent was low and the crime rate high.

We were inured to the meagre array of career prospects.

Theatre, hairdressing and interior design for the guys.

Stage management, security companies and social work for the women.

Talents withered.

People led double lives and lived in terror of blackmailers.

The victimization was one thing.

The propaganda was almost worse.

We were blamed for the transience of our relationships, the illnesses we contracted, for pestilence, misfortune and bad weather.

And, perhaps most damaging of all, we were told that we were predatory.

That our sexual desires were not only unnatural but that we were child abusers.

Even before AIDS we were seen as a contagious illness.

In a supreme irony, proselytising Christian missionaries accused us of recruiting.”

The above words are quotes from Magda Szubanski  wonderful auto biography “Reckoning”.

5 thoughts on “A Minority of One – Words from Magda Szubanski

  1. Thanks for helping me see why so many of the gay people I know are so very defensive. I have two gay children and two straight. I love them all and we have taken on gay rights as our own cause, rather than leave two out in the cold. Things are rapidly changing here in the US. I hope Australia legalizes gay marriage soon!

    1. I hope Australia manages to legalize Gay Marriage too. Preferably without dragging everyone through the muck and smear campaign of a plebiscite. No gay person, young or old, should ever have to suffer the damage that politicizing gay hatred could cause.

  2. What an incredibly evocative and beautiful picture you have used for this blog!

    I wonder though whether that incredible aloneness, may not be wider than even you realise? Further even than all those labels can accommodate?
    There must be others like myself, brought up in an isolated environment (for whatever reason); what was essentially a single sex (at least as far as peers were concerned) environment.
    No female, siblings, relatives or friends, in our generation, No mixing with others at primary school and then single sex schooling from the age of 11.
    Pretty normal in Society at that time (50s and 60s) and OK(?) for the average child with friends, family and community outside school, but for an isolated, shy, reserved, introverted child it meant growing up with no contact at all with the other sex, and an inability to forge any sort of relationship for years after, if ever.
    No one to talk to about a problem that one could not even identify…
    Not so extreme perhaps, yet even more alone

    1. You are quite right and it is for precisely this reason that I chose to share Magda’s words. Even though her topic is specific to her experience, it is also, sadly, an expression of isolation that is universal for many people. As an adult diagnosed later in life with Asperger’s, I too, have experienced this sense of experiencing a way of being for which the rest of my family had no terms of reference or understanding of.

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